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Tue. Nov. 11, 2008

News > Asia & Australia

Polygamy Law Irks Iraq Kurds

By  Afif Sarhan, IOL Correspondent


Many Kurds dismiss the law as a violation of their religious and personal right. (Reuters)

ARBIL � Though they have already been voted into law by the provincial parliament in autonomous Kurdistan, many people believe that the new restrictions on polygamy run counter to their social and religious norms and would hurt rather than help women.

"The Kurdish people aren�t happy with the end of polygamy," MP Mullah Anwar, a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union party (KIU), told IslamOnline.net.

The parliament in Iraq's autonomous northern region passed on Thursday, October 30, a law limiting the circumstances under which a man may have more than one wife.

Under the new legislation, which replaces the old family law that has been in use since 1958, a man is permitted to take a second wife, and no more, only when his first wife is unable to have children or suffers from a disease.

It mandates that a man can't have a second woman if he has pledged in his first marriage contract never to take another wife.

Men found in violation of the new law face jail for at least six months and a fine of 10 million Iraqi dinars.

Kejo Zaho, a scholar from the city of Sulaimaniyah, sees the law as a violation of religious rights.

"We are Muslims and Islamic laws are clear about our rights to marry another woman," he told IOL.

"It is our right and no one can neglect it."

Islam sees polygamy as a realistic answer to some social woes like adulterous affairs and lamentable living conditions of a widow or a divorced woman.

A Muslim man who seeks a second or a third wife should, however, make sure that he would treat them all on an equal footing.

The Noble Qur'an says that though polygamy is lawful it is very hard for a man to guarantee such fairness.

Hurting or Helping��

Many Kurdish politicians believe the new law was only to please and appease feminist groups.

"For years Kurdish men were allowed to marry more than one woman and never had trouble with that," fumed Diyari Hawar, a member of the Kurdish Islamic Association in Arbil.

But Leila Abdullah, a senior official in the Union of Kurdish Women (UKW), disagrees.

"Polygamy destroys families union and can deeply affect the democracy in this country," she told IOL.

"Unfortunately the issue is more political than humanitarian."

From 1994 to 2005, when Kurdistan was divided, polygamy was banned in areas ruled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) but allowed in areas run by the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Since the two administrations united in 2005, the issue took center stage with the provincial parliament issuing laws covering the whole region.

Feminists see the new law as only a semi victory and vow to work until polygamy is totally banned.

"We didn�t win totally but we will keep fighting to have full banishment of polygamy in Iraq," said Jiwan Ahmed, press officer for the Women Freedom Organization of Kurdistan.

But many fear that feminist groups are being given too much power.

"The excessive freedom given to activists in this country is affecting our rights," says Hawar, the member of the Kurdish Islamic Association in Arbil.

Anwar, the KIU MP, agrees.

"Female activists are taking the issue personally and aren�t worried about the consequences that our region might suffer in case of its full banishment."

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